The Met Gala has become known as fashion’s biggest night (yes, even bigger than the Oscars) thanks to the bevy of A-list stars and celebrities from Hollywood and beyond that arrive each year rocking over-the-top ensembles in accordance with the theme. And with this year’s theme set as “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” we expect the looks to be extra-dramatic on Monday, May 2, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But the glamorous evening wasn’t always quite so glitzy. Started in 1948 by publicist Eleanor Lambert as a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newly opened Costume Institute, the very first Met Gala involved a midnight dinner (not at the museum) with tickets selling for $50 a pop. For the fist few decades, the fete jumped around between the Waldorf-Astoria, Central Park and Rainbow Room, but things began to change when then-Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland became a consultant for the Costume Institute in 1972.
Themes corresponding to wing’s exhibit took hold around the same time, and celebs like Cher, Jackie Kennedy and Diana Ross started making regular appearances, which only further upped glam-factor. Vogue’s current editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, was named chair of the event in 1995 and has overseen the staging and guest-list for the now-star-studded “first Monday in May” affair pretty much ever since.
Today, celebrities like Beyonce, Blake Lively, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna team up with designers to thematically push the limits of fashion (think: SJP’s fiery headdress at the 2015 “China: Through the Looking Glass”-themed event or RiRi’s papal-inspired ensemble for the 2018 “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” gala) because a pretty dress alone will not land you on the Met Gala’s best-dressed list.
For 2019, the Costume Institute has tapped Harry Styles, Lady Gaga and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele to co-host the gala. Inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp,” in which the writer defines camp as “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration,” Met curator Andrew Bolton told British Vogue he believes the exhibit and corresponding fashion will “have a lot of cultural resonance” in today’s age.
Only time will tell how stars will choose to interpret it, but, in the meantime, we’re taking a look back at how past Met Gala themes have translated into truly show-stopping fashion moments!